New Zealand is known as the youngest country on Earth. Settled by Maori between 950 and 1130 AD, New Zealand’s history may be short but it is filled with breathtaking terrain and exotic culture.
Native and Modern
Maori, or Tangata Whenua (people of the land), are the indigenous Polynesian people of the country and were the only inhabitants of New Zealand for over 600 years, until the arrival of European explorers in the mid-1600s. The patchwork history of New Zealand is a melting pot of Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures, making it a unique world.
One of the reasons New Zealand hasn’t been overly developed is because of the New Zealander’s value of their heritage, land, and their desire to protect the quality of New Zealand life and culture. They celebrate their culture and actively set out to teach it to their children and friends. You will notice that there is still a heavy Maori presence.
Though it is important to New Zealanders, or Kiwis, to hold on to their heritage, many have wholeheartedly embraced modern urban living. Although the draw of modern life has ingrained itself on many natives, there is a quite sizeable rural population as farming is a major export earner. Though traditional exports of wool, meat and dairy products are still very strong, new products, including Cervena (New Zealand venison), flowers, fruit, biotechnology and wine are now also contributing greatly to economy to their thriving country.
Something you may not have known is that New Zealanders are quite inventive. The Hamilton jet boat and the bungee jump are probably our most famous Kiwi inventions but there are many others….they’re also responsible for the tranquillizer gun, seismic ‘base’ isolators (rubber and lead blocks which minimize earthquake damage), electric fences, the fastest motorbike in the world, stamp vending machines, and the electronic petrol pump, to name a few! Other notable New Zealanders whom you may have actually heard of are actor Russel Crowe and director and writer Peter Jackson, of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Take it outside
For the same reason an estimated 3.2 million visitors come to New Zealand yearly, Kiwis have developed a passion for all things outdoors and delight in activities that make the most of the country’s spectacular landscape. With its expansive coastline and over 20 percent of its countryside covered in national parks, forest areas and reserves, New Zealand is a nature lovers’ paradise!
Hiking, camping, fishing, bush and beach walks are other popular outdoor pursuits for locals, tourists and new residents alike. If you find yourself outside more than in, you’re following in the footsteps of perhaps the most adventurous Kiwi, Sir Edmund Hillary, who conquered Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, in 1953.
New Zealanders love the water and are always found dominating the world of yachting, kayaking, windsurfing and rowing. Rugby is the most popular spectator sport in New Zealand. Their team, All Blacks, won the Rugby World Cup in 1987, 2011 and in 2015.
New Zealand boasts an incredible variety of bird life, some flightless like the Kakapo Parrot, the Kiwi, the Takahe. New Zealand also has abundant and diverse marine life. Whale watching and swimming with dolphins are two highly recommended experiences. One of the world’s rarest dolphins, the Hector’s dolphin, is only found in New Zealand waters. Seals and penguins are also prominent in New Zealand’s fertile marine environment.
Whether seals, penguins, dolphins or whales…..New Zealand’s wildlife might make you feel like you’re in a David Attenborough show.
Eating like a Kiwi
Fish and chips are a Kiwi favorite as well as roast lamb, which is one of the country’s top export meats. On special occasions you may find a meal cooked in the traditional Mauri technique called “hangi”. In this fashion, a meal of chicken or seafood as well as various vegetables is prepared in oven pits dug into the ground. It is a dish that lets you embrace some deep-seated native instincts….dig a deep pit, use a fire to heat a bunch of stones, wrap meat and vegetables in leaves and after placing it in baskets, covering the food and in dirt. After a few hours. The smell of dirt and food mingles and provides an authentic experience of truly (Middle) earthy food.
New Zealanders also love their meat pies with a dollop of Watties. Though like Heinz, Watties is not Heinz. The Kiwi meat pie is the ubiquitous snack, found everywhere from gas stations to cafes. There’s also the Whitebait Fritter consisting of fish cooked in egg whites to create what is essentially a crispy omelet. Served with a salad, fresh lemon, and tartar sauce. This is a quintessential New Zealand delicacy. You may also find hot bowls of Possum Stew….the name says it all.
For those with a sweet tooth, the indigenous chocolate covered marshmallow fish has been a favorite among locals. The Pineapple Lump is another favorite New Zealand treat which is a sweet and tangy confection of a square shaped pineapple candy coated in chocolate. Make sure to try a scoop of Hokey Pokey. While eating this vanilla ice cream with honeycomb, you might find the urge to put dance the other Hokey Pokey. New Zealanders also love their Pavlova.
There’s also the Anzac Biscuit. This cookie is a staple and is dedicated to New Zealand and Australian soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, one of the most tragic battles of the Great War. Moreover, when will you eat a cookie that is directly linked to a national holiday? Anzac Day takes place on April 25th.
Although English is spoken widely, the native language of Maori is still used by many. Maori is used only in New Zealand and nowhere else in the world and despite its status as the official language of New Zealand, the language continues to struggle against being lost. New Zealand is also the first country to name sign language as an official language.
To get you started, here are some greetings you can learn….
• Kia ora – Hello
• Kia ora tatou – Hello everyone
• Tena koe – Greetings to you (said to one person)
• Tena koutou – Greeting to you all
• Haere mai – Welcome
• Nau mai – Welcome
• Kei te pehea koe? – How’s it going?
• Kei te pai – Good
• Tino pai – Really good
• Haere ra – Farewell
• Ka kite ano – Until I see you again (Goodbye)
• Hei konei ra – See you later
Before you go
New Zealand’s friendly and down to earth people will be one of the things you treasure most about your time there. Make sure to join them and embrace the ways of old while entwining with the ever changing ways of society and make the most of being a Kiwi.
Some resources for all things New Zealand that will help you with everything from sites to see, to work life and the culture around you –